‘Leave Paul Kruger statue alone. It’s part of our heritage’

2015-04-08 12:59

Protesters and most bystanders at the Paul Kruger statue in Church Square, Pretoria, agreed on one thing: the statue should not be removed.

About 80 protesters heeded the call by Afrikaans singer Sunette Bridges and the Front National party to come out and oppose the removal of the statue.

Flags of the party and placards calling for an independent Afrikaner state lined the area around the statue.

Some placards said the ANC had white Afrikaner blood on its hands, while others accused the government of window dressing its own reconciliation policies.

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“This [the statue] is part of our history,” said Heleen du Toit, one of the protesters.

“It is a tourist attraction. People around the world come to Pretoria for it. Look at the buildings around. They are all historical. They can even put something next to this guy [Paul Kruger] but leave him.”

Oscar Mabasa, who works in the tourism industry, agreed.

“This is a major tourist attraction in Pretoria,” he said. “Removing it is not good from a tourism point of view. If we had to take these statues out, it should have been done around 1992 or when Madiba came out of prison.”

Karabo Sefolo, who works for the South African Police Service, said there were more important issues to worry about.

“Black children going to school should be the real issue. Not statues,” she said.

But Davis Chitumba, a Unisa student, said Kruger’s statue should be removed to give the country a fresh start.

“We should put something useful in its place. It reminds us of a bad past. We like the present and we hope we’ll like the future, but we absolutely hate the past,” he said.

A member of the ANC Women’s League, who did not want to be named, said the issue was divisive. “We have to stop this thing of fighting each other. It is part of our heritage.”

And Lerato Sekonya said history could not be changed. “If we support the removal of the statue, we are not for democracy. We are going back as a nation.”

Government workers Maggie Thinyane and Mlungisi Mthembu said that removing the statue was a “waste of energy, time and money”.

“The Mandelas and the Bikos wouldn’t have been as great as they were if it wasn’t for these people. Everyone has a place in history.”

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